In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

You might be confused if the India Department of Telecommunications agrees with leaked recommendations of a DoT panel on net neutrality. It is likely the reports are incorrect.

Leaked comments suggest the panel recommends banning zero rating as a violation of network neutrality, but will also will allow zero rating, so long as service providers get permission to do so.

Earlier rumors had suggested DoT would flatly ban any such practices. It is hard to make sense of those policies, if in fact those are the stanes.

The plan apparently would block app providers from zero rating, but approve it for mobile operators. Perhaps that is where the confusion lies.

Curiously, the rumored approach also would allow service providers to offer zero rated plans that require app providers to pay for the privilege, and apparently would bar app providers from doing the same thing, but without payment of any fees, by anyone, to anyone.

The panel reportedly has argued that “collaborations between telecom operators and content providers that enable such gate-keeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged.”

In that view, a general policy allowing any app to be used without incurring data charges is allowable, if the apps pay for the privilege. But the policy appears to reject similar availability if app providers or mobile service providers agree to do so voluntarily, and without any payments made for the right to do so.

The neutrality debate heated up in India after Bharti Airtel launched a platform, Airtel Zero, that would allow free access of some websites on it network, if the app owners paid Airtel.

Facebook-organized had partnered with Reliance Communications to offer free acces to a suite of free apps, but without any payment to Reliance Communications.

The network neutrality rules must be sent to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for actual finalization.

So what is going on? The policy probably is not as rumored or reported. It is possible what the new recommendation will include is indeed a ban on zero rating, but allowance for network management or quality of service mechanisms for “managed services” such as carrier voice over IP networks–but not “Internet” bandwidth.

In that view, as all networks using Internet Protocol are not supporting “Internet access,” so too not all IP services supplied by mobile operators are “Internet access” functions. Private networks and managed services also use IP, but are not “Internet” services.

We’ll know soon enough. But it is possible, probably highly possible, some leaked rumors are not as they appear.

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